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NCAA Season 98: Cardinals pursue the road to greatness

Article by: Lea Ysabel Q. Evangelista
Graphics by: Ma. Alyssa Therese S. Manalang

Less than two months since the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) wrapped up its 97th season, the league returns in full force to bring a new series of tournaments as it launches #NCAASeason98 with the theme Achieve Greatness Everyday today, September 10, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, hosted by the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC), still in partnership with GMA Sports.
With a new season, brand new developments were seen as COVID-19 restrictions continue to loosen and a sense of normalcy gradually creeps in. After a successful run in the previous season, the NCAA has taken the new installment to great lengths. While the previous season was mostly managed through a bubble set-up with players in isolation, limited audience members, and a single round-robin tournament, this season gradually shifts to a normal set-up with a double round-robin format and a bigger crowd while adhering to current health protocols.

Nonetheless, NCAA Season 98 Management Committee Chairman Estefanio Boquiron, Jr. ensured that stricter protocols will be applied given the new crowd with antigen testing for staff and players being part of the season’s budget.

Following more viewers in the venue, the NCAA has reinstated Men’s Volleyball, Beach Volleyball, Junior Men’s Basketball, Track and Field, Swimming, and the Cheerleading Competition, along with the current active sports events, Senior Men’s Basketball, Women’s Volleyball, Chess, and Taekwondo. All sports, apart from chess and taekwondo, will be held face-to-face.

Along with a star-studded opening lineup featuring Kapuso artists, the NCAA Opening Ceremony marks the start of the Senior Men’s Basketball Tournament as host school EAC Generals takes on the Arellano University (AU) Chiefs for the first match of the season. The Season 97 First Runner-Up Mapúa University (MU) Cardinals and 2nd Runner-Up San Beda University (SBU) Red Lions also battle later the opening day.

The Cardinals are still at a high with a notable performance during the off-season as they participated in the Filoil EcoOil Pre-season Cup, won third place in the PinoyLiga Cup, and first runner-up as part of the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers in the Philippine Basketball Association Developmental League (PBA D-League) Aspirants’ Cup. Mapúa Cardinals Head Coach Randy Alcantara shared that these opportunities aimed to boost the team’s morals as well as hone their skills on the court. “I think malaking tulong ‘to sa campaign natin this Season 98,” he noted.

In preparation for this season, they did more than off-season leagues as they participated in rigorous training and in tune-up games against Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) teams and other universities to improve their play and review their weaknesses.

The red and gold squad is still led by captain ball Warren Bonifacio together with Cardinal veterans Arvin Gamboa, Paolo Jose Hernandez, Enrico Joaquin Garcia, Jasper Salenga, Jeric James Pido, Adrian Clarence Nocum, Carl Brian Lacap, Toby Bryan Agustin, Jopet Soriano, and Jomer Mercado. They are joined by fresh faces and off-season debutants Gabrielle Gamboa, Marc Cyrus Cuenco, Marc Andrei Igliane, Dan Angelo Parinas, and John Ivan Cudiamat.

“Ipapapangako namin na dodoblehin, titriplehin namin ang ginawa naming para mukha ulit natin ang gusto natin. Ta-try ulit tayo this season,” Coach Alcantara shared when thanking the Mapúan community for their continued support.

Hernandez would like the Mapúans to expect that the team will do their very best to compete in the finals once again. He urges the community to show their support as they plan to dominate the court. “Gagawin namin lahat, para sa atin ‘tong championship na ‘to,” the Season 97 Most Improved Player stated.

The NCAA Season 98 opening ceremony will be held today, September 10, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, at 11:00 AM, and will be broadcasted on GTV, GMA Sports, and NCAA Philippines’ official social media accounts later at 2:30 PM. Tickets are available through or at the arena’s ticketing booth.
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